Why vote for Amendment 73 to support our public schools in Colorado? Concern has been expressed about why this amendment is needed and if this the right approach. Since the 2009-10 school year, the Colorado Legislature has used what is called the budget stabilization factor. This allows it to appropriate funds for education and then take back a portion of the money in order to balance the state budget. As a result, the Cortez-Montezuma School District (RE-1) has been required to give up $23.3 million. This year’s projected give-back is projected to be $2.1 million. The state budget is being balanced on the backs of students and teachers! Studies by the Colorado Association of School Boards and others have shown that, even if the negative factor had not occurred, there would not be enough to adequately fund public schools.
In the Montezuma-Cortez district, salaries are lower and not competitive with those offered by neighboring districts. The lack of competitive salaries is evidenced by an annual turnover rate for teachers that exceeds 20 percent. In addition, 50 percent of our teachers have been here five years or less. We have many wonderful dedicated teachers in our district who face difficult challenges daily, and they need to receive just compensation for their efforts. Without Amendment 73, this will not be possible. In addition to salaries, there are numerous other needs in the Montezuma-Cortez District not adequately funded, such as student transportation, building maintenance on aging schools and school safety and technology upgrades.
Amendment 73 provides additional funding to schools by increasing income tax only for those whose taxable income is more than $150,000 per year, less than 4 percent of county residents. Those above this level will see a small graduated income tax increase. For example, a tax filer with a taxable income of $300,000 and house value of $500,000 may only see an annual increase of $1,500. Amendment 73 increases taxes only for C Corporations, generally large corporations. They would see an increase of 1.37 percent. In Montezuma-County, most locally based small businesses are S-Corporations, LLCs or partnerships.
Some critics of Amendment 73 say it was put forward without adequate study. This is not the case. Our own RE-1 school board has been concerned about inadequate funding and discussed solutions since at least 2009, when I joined the board. I have talked to teachers, administrators and board members across the state. All have been working toward an equitable way to adequately fund public education.
We have an opportunity to pass an amendment that allows us and other districts throughout Colorado to meet many of the educational needs of our children. Our teachers and other dedicated staff, our community and, most of all, our children cannot wait years for us to act. Amendment 73 is our best chance to make sure our kids have what they need to succeed. I urge you to vote YES.